How a North Texas City Council Race Can Change Texas Politics

-by Mike Siegel

I spent four years progressive campaigns for Congress, and among the many lessons I learned, a core one is this: the Texas Democratic infrastructure is weak but our ideas are strong. Especially the progressive ideas.

Job creation, fighting corruption, serving people's basic needs-- the people of Texas want what we want. But they don't identify the "Democratic" brand with improving their own lives. That's why I recently joined a Texas-based voter engagement organization, Register2Vote, along with Julie Oliver, a friend and fellow progressive Congressional candidate. We are working on developing programs to inspire voters. One of our efforts is boosting talented young candidates who are talking about the right issues and running their campaigns the right way. (And by "right way," I mean actually talking to voters and not burning cash on consultants.) Which brings us to Grand Prairie, Texas, where we are boosting the City Council race of Steve "Junior" Ezeonu. We think it's races like Junior's, in places like Grand Prairie, that will determine the future of Texas politics.

Junior is a 22 year-old Nigerian-American immigrant and recent UT-Arlington grad who is running against the darling of the local Chamber of Commerce, Greg Giessner, a Republican incumbent.

Grand Prairie is not a progressive hotbed, at least not yet, but the conditions are there. It's a city of about 200,000 people between Dallas and Fort Worth that is 48% Hispanic, 23% Black, and 7% Asian. It voted 62% for Joe Biden. But seven of nine City Council members are white and Republican-- and the City hasn't elected a Black representative in 40 years!

Junior is an amazing young leader. He's a teacher and youth mentor who is fighting for local job creation, good schools, and quality healthcare. By knocking countless doors, he forced a heavily-favored incumbent into a June 5 runoff. The Chamber of Commerce wants his opponent to be the next Mayor of Grand Prairie-- but Junior has other plans.

(The majority of voters in the May 1 general election were Democratic. Don't need to read more? Chip in $25 to help Junior win!)

A key issue in this election is a $75 million bond that Grand Prairie just adopted. Junior is demanding the money be used to hire local residents, and that contracts be set aside for minority-owned businesses. This demand has made the local political structure very worried. They are used to divvying up City resources behind closed doors.

The bigger context, unfortunately, is a legacy of racism in Grand Prairie. Confederate monuments are here. The city still elects three council members at-large-- a Jim Crow tactic to limit the power of Black and Brown communities. And then there's the headlines going back decades. "Grand Prairie Cops Accused of Sending Racist Emails." "Office Indicted on Murder Charge for Shooting Mentally Ill Man." This is a place where organizing for change is badly needed.

Junior's election will have tremendous ramifications for equity, justice, and opportunity. That's why progressive community organizations have started supporting Junior, including local unions, the Tejano Democrats, Our Revolution, the Working Families Party, and more. Unfortunately, this support for Junior has also sparked a serious backlash.

Junior's opponent just sent out a mailer with a series of racist dog whistles. The piece, showcasing support from the police union and developers, says Junior will bring in "low-income housing" and that he's backed by "radical outside groups." Basically, the "outside agitator" trope was brought to bear again.

Then, yesterday, after I publicly announced my support for Junior, a Grand Prairie Republican posted this:

Mind you, police reform is not one of Junior's leading issues in this race. And as for the other "votes"? There is one other Black candidate running in a separate runoff election, and there are two Latino incumbents on the City Council. So yes, this is ONLY a dog whistle to white voters-- in effect, warning that Grand Prairie, a majority Black and Latino city, would have a majority Black and Latino City Council.

Which brings me to my ask: will you donate $25 or more right now? In this election, less than two weeks away, a courageous young progressive can topple a racist local power structure. And he can do this with just a few hundred extra votes! That's why we are raising money to hire canvassers and get out the vote for the next two weeks.

Your support can make a difference! Thanks for reading.

This is the ActBlue contribution link.


Mike Siegel is the political director of Register2Vote. As the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Texas 10th in 2018 and 2020, he built an unprecedented left-wing coalition in a heavily gerrymandered district. He earned over 187,000 votes in 2020, the third-most of any Democrat in the state. He and Julie Oliver are rebuilding Register2Vote and will be announcing a new statewide initiative in June 2021.